Indoor Climbing At First Ascent Uptown: A Creative Way To Stay In Shape During The Pandemic


By: William Brady (Loyola Junior)

Winter is just around the corner in Chicago, and this one will likely have an extra layer of brutal. Besides the extreme cold, much of the city is once again in lockdown. But this does not give you an excuse to get out of shape. In fact, now is the perfect time to explore new fitness activities. So for the Rogers Park and Edgewater community, look no further than First Ascent Uptown.

First Ascent is a Chicago based climbing gym with four locations throughout the city. Three of these locations are solely for bouldering (more on that later) and the Avondale location focuses on top rope and lead climbing. The bouldering locations are in Block 37, Humboldt Park, and Uptown. For us in the Rogers Park and Edgewater community, First Ascent Uptown is the closest location.

Located at 4718 N Broadway, First Ascent Uptown is a two story building with the check-in desk, bike rack for cyclists, and a regular gym outfitted with standard equipment on the first floor. The second floor is where the climbing takes place. The type of climbing here is specifically called bouldering, which is relatively low off the ground with no ropes or harnesses. If you fall, you fall. But rest assured, the floor is padded and the risk of injury is low even when falling from some of the highest walls in the gym (I have done this on multiple occasions and have never been harmed). But one must take note: climbing is an inherently dangerous activity, and safety needs to always be taken seriously when climbing or when other climbers are present!

Throughout the gym there are various color coded rock holds that indicate specific routes. You’ll want to cover your hands in climbing chalk to better your grip. You can bring your own (as long as it’s a ball and not loose) or there are chalk dispensers throughout the gym.

The grading scale utilized is a V scale ranging from B to around ten. People brand new to climbing can usually complete the routes graded B, zero, one, and maybe two. Intermediate climbers can climb routes graded three, four, five, and maybe six. Everything after is considered pretty advanced. But one shouldn’t worry much about being on the low grades starting out, as the vast majority of climbers start there. The gym is a super friendly and welcoming environment.

Now, you may be wondering how safe this is during the pandemic, and I am here to tell you it is very safe. The gym shuts down from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every day to deep clean and disinfect the gym. It is also deep cleaned and disinfected overnight. Masks are required to be worn at all times in the gym.

To climb here, a reservation needs to be made on their website at where you will be asked to create an account. A visitor can make a reservation that will cost $21 ($17 for students) and $6 for climbing shoes (your first time the shoes are free). There are other membership options as well. The reservations are for periods of two hours, and each two hour period allows for 50 members and 15 visitors. There is more than enough space for this amount of people.

Upon entering the gym, all climbers are asked if they have been in contact with anyone suspected of or confirmed of having COVID-19, and if you have left the state in the past 14 days. If these are both a “no” you are asked to sanitize your hands and are allowed to proceed to the rest of the gym, where you are then free to climb to your heart’s desire.

First Ascent takes great effort to continue allowing Chicago’s climbers a safe community and environment to practice what we love. For those wishing to try a new physical fitness activity, get out of the house/apartment, and support local Chicago businesses, First Ascent is a must. And for those in the Rogers Park and Edgewater Area, First Ascent Uptown is just a neighborhood away!

First Ascent Uptown is located at 4718 N Broadway, 773-275-1212;

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